Wednesday, November 26, 2008

HOW TO: Better Black Celebration Tips

Jennifer Melnick Carota styles herself a new-age, gifting guru. So who better to ring up before "Black Friday" - the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest retail day of the year - to give us her holiday shopping survival guide? The Pennsylvania native combined her expertise as a licensed mental-health counselor and reformed shopaholic and "The Gift Therapist" was born. And because she's down with Salty, our readers can snatch a free download that she calls the "Cliff Notes" version of her latest book Giveology .

Consider her tips for the best Black Friday:

1. Prepare for Invasion. Jennifer suggests you organize before you shop. "Clean out your wallet to include only the cash, credit cards and photo identification needed to make your purchases," she says. "Creating a separate shopping wallet is a simple way to keep everything organized throughout the holiday shopping season."

2. Keep It Real. Identity theft ranks high on her list. "Play it safe," she cautions. "Keep a detailed list of the plastic in your shopping wallet and store them in a safe place at your home. Include card name, account number and customer service phone number. If your wallet disappears, quick access to this info is invaluable."

3. Don't Run on Empty. Just because you head to the mall at 4 a.m., don't skip on breakfast and bring extra fuel. "Pack a snack," she instructs. "During a long day of shopping, keep you blood glucose balanced by nibbling on granola or homemade trail mix. They'll boost your stamina, mood and budget."

4. Dress You Up. That isn't just early Madonna for the Gift Therapist. "You are on a mission," she states, "dress accordingly. Minimize primping and wear comfortable clothes and sneakers. Leave your bulky coat in the car and rely on a fleece pull-over for the parking lot. You can tie it around your waist later and still have two hands to manage all of your shopping bags."

5. The Mission's Mantra. And it wouldn't be Black Friday without a Satanic backwards message. "Shop backward," Jennifer suggests. "Buy small gifts, then big. Hit the clearance racks first. Challenge yourself to come in under budget." And remember, kids, it's a jungle out there, but when that shopping list is all crossed off, you can always crash out on The Gift Therapist's couch.